Protecting the environment: The Davide landmark decision

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

It was a great Cebuano, from Colawin, Argao, Justice (later Chief Justice) Hilario Gilbolingo Davide Jr, who penned the landmark Supreme Court decision in Oposa versus Factoran, filed on behalf of the young Filipinos, by another great young lawyer from Cebu, Antonio A Oposa Jr, president of The Law of Nature Foundation and a multi-awarded environmentalist, in fact, one of Asia's icon for the protection of the planet earth.

Chief Justice Davide Jr opened his masterpiece with this paragraph: "In a broader sense, this petition bears upon the right of Filipinos to a balanced and healthful ecology which the petitioners dramatically associate with the concepts of 'inter-generational responsibility' and 'inter-generational justice'. Specifically, it touches on the issue of whether the said petitioners have a cause of action 'to prevent the misappropriation or impairment' of Philippine rainforests' and ' arrest the unabated hemorrhage of the country's vital life support and continued rape of Mother Earth'". These strong words are now apropos in the face of developments that are disturbing the natural environment of Cebu, Bohol and many other frontiers in Palawan, Mindoro and Mindanao.

CJ Davide Jr reminded us in the case of Oposa vs Factoran, that the Philippines is an archipelago of 7,100 islands with an area of 30 million hectares and endowed with rich, lush and verdant rainforests which are the natural habitats of many unique and rare species of flora and fauna. Oposa's petition, as described by CJ Davide Jr, reminded us that our rainforests contain a genetic, biological and chemical pool which are irreplaceable. They are also the habitat of indigenous Philippine culture which have existed, endured and flourished since time immemorial. The Davide decision also stressed that scientific evidence reveals that in order to maintain a balanced and healthful ecology, the country's land area should be utilized on the basis of a ratio of 54 percent for forest cover and only 46 percent for development in agriculture, residence, industry and commerce.

The Oposa petition, as described by CJ Davide Jr, decried that the man-made distortions and undue human disturbances of nature, as a consequence of deforestation,  have resulted in a host of  environmental tragedies, such as (a) water shortages as a result of drying up of the water table or "aquifer", as well as of rivers, brooks and streams, (b) salinization of the water table resulting from the intrusion of salt water, incontrovertible examples of which may be found in the islands of Cebu and the municipality of Bacoor, Cavite, (c) massive erosion and the consequential loss of soil fertility and agricultural productivity with volumes of soil eroded estimated at one billion cubic meters per annum, which was approximated like the  size of the whole island of Catanduanes, (d) the endangering and extinction of unique, rare and varied species of flora and fauna."

Oposa' s case before the Supreme Court, as narrated by CJ Davide Jr, also expressed outrage at man's reckless devastation of the environments as shown in (e) the disturbance and dislocation of cultural communities and the consequential disappearance of the Filipinos' indigenous cultures, (f) the siltation of rivers and seabed and the resulting destruction of corals and other aquatic life, leading to a critical reduction in marine resource productivity, (g) recurrent spells of drought as is presently experienced by the entire country, (h) increasing velocity of typhoon winds due to the destruction of mountains and their forests as windbreakers, (i) the flooding of lowlands and and agricultural plains arising from the absence of absorbent mechanisms of forests and natural vegetations.

The decision also raised issues against the (j) the siltation and shortening of the lifespan of multi-million dams constructed and operated for the purpose of supplying water for domestic uses, irrigation and generation of electric power, and (k) the reduction of the earth's capacity to process carbon dioxide gases which has led to perplexing and catastophic climate changes such as the phenomenon of global warming otherwise known as the 'greenhouse effect'.

This column does not have enough space nor time to discuss in its totality this landmark decision of a Ramon Magsaysay awardee, Chief Justice Hilario G Davide Jr which resolved the case filed by another Magsaysay awardee, Antonio A Oposa Jr. We shall follow this up in our next columns.

Let us elevate the conversations on Chocolate Hills and the Balamban Capitol to the higher levels of great and eminent men like CJ Davide Jr and Atty. Tony A. Oposa Jr. And stay away from petty politics and parochial biases.

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